Here’s my weekly roundup of stories and news items in the digital space from the past week or so that I think are worth your attention. This week: it’s all about video. Well, most of it, anyway.
New Ways To Tap Into Video On Twitter (Twitter blog, 6/21)
As if there wasn’t enough evidence that video is the content vehicle of choice for digital platforms, Twitter has announced a bevy of new features designed to enable and promote more video sharing on its platform. Chief among the changes: you will soon be able to upload videos of 140 seconds instead of just a 30 second max. Another change: tapping on a video Tweet or Vine on your timeline will take users to a new, full-screen viewing experience. These changes are likely to benefit publishing outlets — a CNN or Wall Street Journal could upload entire news stories to Twitter — as well as brands looking to leverage Twitter’s audience and convey broader or deeper messages than the traditional 140 character limit allows. Vine, too, will be expanding beyond its previous six second limit. The final of Twitter’s announcements, Twitter Engage, is aimed at power users and influencers, making it more compelling these high value, high attraction users to stay on Twitter by making it easier for them to see their analytics, track other power users who are following them, see what’s being said about them, and cut out the noise from the mass public on the platform. The big news today isn’t Engage; it’s the video features. One more sign that your brand ought to be devoting more resources to video production inside your communications or marketing program.
This is a significant move by YouTube to help small businesses compete for attention in an increasingly crowded market for online video. With the increasing importance of online video, small businesses that don’t have the financial or staff resources of a Fortune 1000 company can now produce high quality, well-edited video pieces that don’t make them look poorly resourced. Smart move by YouTube/Google that will likely be most welcome to SMBs.
If you’re noticing a recurring theme this week, you should: Video rules. Unlike other platforms which built their own livestreaming capabilities or apps, Tumblr is outsourcing to third parties to make their live video work. But however they get there, the important thing is that Tumblr, too, is recognizing the influence and importance of live video in the digital environment of 2016. For right now, this is more for publishers like Mashable, MTV, and Refinery29… but it’s likely only a matter of time before we see Tumblr trying to monetize its live video via advertising.
Facebook Makes It Clearer When An Instant Article Is An Advertorial (Marketingland, 6/17)
Beyond FTC disclosure requirements, there’s been another issue with brand Instant Articles; they’ve been largely far too promotional and full of marketing messages and feel sales-y. Facebook acknowledged as much in their blog post announcing new tools for brands using Instant Articles. So the platform has done its part to help brands stop selling so hard and start providing users content that they actually care about. The onus is still on brands to remember: in a good branded story that users will care about, your brand is the sidekick and the user or someone like the user is the hero. Users have to be able to see themselves in the story or related to the character or the problem told and resolved; if they don’t or can’t, and see only marketing messages, they will tune out and ignore your content. Getting back to these new Facebook tools, businesses may be able to utilize them for branding and to visually distinguish their sponsored content from organic content — meaning that in theory, a brand won’t have to spend so much time branding itself in the actual content, and can focus more on the reader’s interests and needs.
Report: 87 Million People Will Use An Ad-Blocker In 2017 (Digiday, 6/21)
87 million people is up about 24% from 2016. Still think that “the way we’ve always done it” will work on digital platforms? It’s not that people resist brand content on digital platforms; they resist irrelevant, hard-sell content from brands that still think that the best way to reach an audience is by forcing product or brand messaging on them in an environment more designed and used for personal interactions. Ad blocking isn’t going away, no matter how much the advertising and marketing worlds wring their hands. As marketers, we have to be conscious of the experiences users are on social media to have, and find creative ways to make ourselves part of that experience rather than imposing messaging into it. Good, relevant digital content will not be blocked. Bad, brand-centric content will be.
Instagram Doubles Monthly Users To 500M In Two Years, Sees 300M Daily (TechCrunch, 6/21)
The numbers are impressive enough — and having 300 million people checking the platform daily is mouth-watering enough for marketers. Instagram users clearly value the platform and spend time on it. But the amount of content being shared on the platform is slowing and isn’t growing as fast as you might think for all those daily users. Could this mean that Instagram is slowly morphing into something like Twitter — more of a platform people go to review and digest others’ content rather than sharing their own? (If that’s an increasing trend, this would signal even more importance for established influencers whose content is readily consumed by the Instagram audience.) Could Snapchat be siphoning away content from Instagram? (Would this mean that user growth will begin to stagnate as it has for Twitter?) And will the slowing — or even a slight decline — in the amount of content being posted matter to advertisers as Instagram puts on its full court press to attract advertisers and marketers?
GhostBot From Burner Lets You Blow Off That Weirdo From Tinder Really Easily (The Next Web, 6/21)
On its face, this is a pretty funny story. But look deeper, and there’s a slight concern about bots just as they appear poised for explosive growth. The promise of bots is that they can automate individual interactions and potentially even change the relationship customers have with brands (Shel Holtz has posted frequently about this). But if it’s this easy to create bots that are designed specifically to avoid genuine interaction, will that have an effect on how people perceive bots, on the level that consumers trust interactions with bots? Might it be kind of like the effect of finding out a popular corporate executive’s blog is ghost-written by the communications team? For bots to live up to their potential, consumers and users have to trust that the bot will eventually get them where they want to go, or get them the information or resolution they’re looking for. Too many stories about bots written as an agent of misdirection or deception might well turn bots into an annoyance rather than a convenience — the 2020s version of voice prompt systems that were intended to automate customer service but instead so often frustrate consumers who just want to talk to a real person.